Environmental campaigners are calling for an open conversation over river levels in a Suffolk town.

The call is being made by the Hadleigh Environmental Action Team over the River Brett’s sluice gates in Tinker’s Lane.

The Environment Agency announced plans to close the mill gates to raise the water level of the river, but HEAT was not consulted on the decision.

There have been strong opinions expressed on both sides of the debate over the river level, with concerns raised about the low water level and others worried about the persistent flooding of the area in recent months.

East Anglian Daily Times:

Paul Hodgkin, from the local campaign group, said: “The Environment Agency has kept in touch with HEAT very well in the past three years, except in the last day or two when they decided to close the gate in response to a campaign that’s been running in Hadleigh.

“We don’t have a formal position and the Environment Agency is responding to a campaign to raise the river level, which may be the right thing to do, but they just haven’t told us. We’ve learnt about that from the press.

“HEAT doesn’t know if it’s better for the river for the gates to be open or closed. We’re hoping for a dialogue with the Environment Agency for some advice on that. What I personally know is that although the river has gone very low, part of the bank is already beginning to develop vegetation and the river is much clearer and not silty anymore.”

A stakeholders’ group was established three years ago including water companies, HEAT, and the Environment Agency.

Over the past few years, HEAT has taken samples on a monthly basis from different points along the River Brett, looking at things like indicator species and pollution levels, feeding results into a national database.

Mr Hodgkin continued: “Most people because of the climate crisis and crisis of biodiversity know how important the river’s health is. There are genuinely different views on the water level of the river. It’s understandable that we disagree. What’s important is we have a conversation. Hopefully we can keep listening to each other.”

Lindsay Panton, Chair of Hadleigh Flood Action Group set up after Storm Babet and HEAT steering group member, said she was always keen for people to get involved in protecting the local environment.

HEAT is involved in many such projects including setting up local forest schools, planting fruit trees, and launching their net zero campaign to green up Hadleigh.

East Anglian Daily Times:

She said: “One of the ways we plan to get the community to come together on the river is to take part in The Big River Watch, run by The Rivers Trust. Taking place from May 3 to May 6, people can download an app, sit by the river, and enjoy it.”

A spokesperson for the Environment Agency said: “We operate the mill gates in Tinker’s Lane, Hadleigh, using our permissive powers for the purposes of flood risk management. They have been raised during the extremely wet winter months to help alleviate the very high river flows.

“We are now looking to lower them as we move into the drier summer period which will raise the river levels.  We need to assess any potential impacts raising the river levels may have before we close the gates, which we are currently in the process of doing. All being well we aim to close the gates within the next week.”